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Study Destination > Ireland

Study In Ireland

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Ireland Education System

Transparent Accountability Mechanisms

The education system in Ireland is highly regarded internationally, offering a diverse range of options from primary school to higher education.


Here's an overview:


Primary Education: Primary education in Ireland typically begins at age four or five and lasts for eight years. The primary curriculum covers a broad range of subjects, including English, Irish (Gaeilge), mathematics, science, history, geography, and physical education.


Secondary Education: Secondary education in Ireland is divided into two cycles: Junior Cycle and Senior Cycle.


Junior Cycle (Lower Secondary): The Junior Cycle typically lasts for three years, from ages 12 to 15. Students study a wide range of subjects, including English, Irish, mathematics, science, history, geography, and optional subjects such as foreign languages, business studies, and art.


Senior Cycle (Upper Secondary): The Senior Cycle lasts for two years, from ages 15 to 17 or 18. At the end of the Senior Cycle, students take the Leaving Certificate examination, which is the main assessment for secondary education in Ireland. Students study a combination of core subjects and electives, with a focus on preparing for the Leaving Certificate exams.


Higher Education: Ireland has a vibrant higher education sector, with universities, institutes of technology, and colleges offering a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate programs. Higher education institutions in Ireland are known for their research excellence and innovative teaching methods. The Irish university system is similar to that of the UK, with undergraduate degrees typically lasting three or four years and postgraduate degrees ranging from one to two years.


Quality Assurance: The Irish education system is regulated by the Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), which ensures that academic standards are maintained across all institutions. QQI also oversees the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ), which provides a framework for comparing qualifications at different levels.


International Students: Ireland is a popular destination for international students, with a growing number of students from around the world choosing to study there. International students are attracted by the high quality of education, the English-speaking environment, and the vibrant cultural scene.


Overall, the education system in Ireland offers students a high-quality, internationally recognized education with a strong emphasis on critical thinking, creativity, and innovation.



The National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) is a system used in Ireland to classify and compare the different levels and types of educational qualifications. It provides a way to understand the level of learning achieved through various educational pathways. Here's an overview of the NFQ framework and the qualifications it encompasses:




The NFQ consists of ten levels, each representing a different stage of learning, from basic skills to doctoral level. The levels are as follows:


Level 1: Basic Skills

Level 2: Elementary Education

Level 3: Junior Certificate (Lower Secondary)

Level 4: Leaving Certificate (Upper Secondary)

Level 5: Further Education and Training (Post-Leaving Certificate)

Level 6: Advanced Certificate and Higher Certificate (Associate Degree)

Level 7: Ordinary Bachelor's Degree

Level 8: Honors Bachelor's Degree

Level 9: Master's Degree

Level 10: Doctoral Degree




The NFQ covers a wide range of qualifications, including academic, vocational, and professional qualifications. Some of the main types of qualifications included in the NFQ are:

Junior Certificate: Awarded upon completion of the Junior Cycle (Level 3).

Leaving Certificate: Awarded upon completion of the Senior Cycle (Level 4).

Higher Certificate: A two-year undergraduate qualification (Level 6).

Ordinary Bachelor's Degree: A three-year undergraduate qualification (Level 7).

Honours Bachelor's Degree: A four-year undergraduate qualification (Level 8).

Master's Degree: A postgraduate qualification typically requiring one to two years of study (Level 9).

Doctoral Degree: The highest level of academic qualification, usually requiring several years of research (Level 10).

Professional Qualifications: Qualifications awarded by professional bodies in areas such as law, medicine, engineering, and accounting.

Validation and Quality Assurance: The NFQ provides a framework for validating and quality-assuring qualifications in Ireland. Qualifications are aligned with specific levels on the NFQ to ensure consistency and comparability across different educational pathways and institutions.


Recognition: Qualifications awarded within the NFQ are internationally recognized, facilitating mobility and transferability between education systems and countries. This recognition enhances the employability and career prospects of individuals who hold NFQ-aligned qualifications.Overall, the NFQ framework plays a crucial role in organizing and understanding the Irish education system, providing a clear structure for qualifications and learning pathways.

Overall, the NFQ framework plays a crucial role in organizing and understanding the Irish education system, providing a clear structure for qualifications and learning pathways.

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